Don’t re­peal the com­muter tax ben­e­fit

The Washington Post - - POWER POST - Katie Cris­tol, Ar­ling­ton The writer is vice chair of the Ar­ling­ton County Board, co-chair­man of the North­ern Vir­ginia Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion’s Leg­isla­tive Com­mit­tee and sec­re­tary of the Vir­ginia Rail­way Ex­press Op­er­a­tions Board.

The leg­isla­tive change pro­posed to the fed­eral com­muter tran­sit ben­e­fit, while seem­ingly mi­nor, would be dev­as­tat­ing for our re­gion’s tran­sit rid­ers, lo­cal tran­sit providers and even those who choose to com­mute by car. As the Nov. 26 Com­muter ar­ti­cle “Com­muter ben­e­fits could be squeezed by tax over­haul bills” noted, the House and Se­nate ver­sions “would re­peal a tax de­duc­tion for em­ploy­ers who pro­vide park­ing or tran­sit passes as a fringe ben­e­fit for their em­ploy­ees.”

Com­bined with a lower cor­po­rate tax rate, this re­peal leaves lit­tle in­cen­tive for busi­nesses to pro­vide tran­sit ben­e­fits. Roughly 90 per­cent of Vir­ginia Rail­way Ex­press pas­sen­gers and 65 per­cent of Metro’s Vir­ginia rid­ers rely on the com­muter tran­sit ben­e­fit, as much as $260 per month per per­son, to pay all or part of their fares. Any change to the ben­e­fit pro­gram could mean a dra­matic re­duc­tion in rid­er­ship and a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the num­ber of cars on the re­gion’s roads. And more con­ges­tion means neg­a­tive ef­fects on our lo­cal econ­omy and the qual­ity of life for our res­i­dents. Congress should leave the com­muter tax ben­e­fit in­tact.

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